For a Digital Society and an Open Internet


Markus Beckedahl giving his opening speech; credit: re:publica/Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

"It is our digital society. We have to get involved and make a difference for the digital world," says Markus Beckedahl, co-founder of re:publica and editor-in-chief of the, in his opening speech of #rp15. Read the whole speech here.

"It’s a bit like Groundhog Day. Last year, we demanded asylum for Snowden, and still he has to stay in Russia. But at least one thing has changed: The last two weeks have finally brought us a long-overdue debate on the way that our own intelligence services are involved and complicit in the NSA’s networks. But still, the debate is misguided. The problem is the system of total surveillance. We have to pull out of mass surveillance, both on a national level, including the EU, and globally. In the next few days, we will discuss goals and strategies.

The response of the German Government to what Edward Snowden has revealed so far have been: ducking away, befuddling, denying everything. The only reforms that have been announced so far are in fact only meant to extend the near immeasurable powers of our intelligence services – even more money for even more network surveillance. This has to come to an end. We demand that our fundamental rights apply even in the digital world, and that we may communicate as safely online as we could in our own, analogue bedrooms.

And another reform is looming ahead: The zombie of data retention returns. Again, our connection data is supposed to be to be stored, this time for a period of almost three months, most likely including location data from our mobile devices – that is, coverage and traces of our physical lives. The generation of our parents would never have accepted that for weeks on end, providers register who we are communicating with, where we have been, and who we’ve been meeting. This is something we do not want in the digital world, neither in Germany, nor in the European Union, nor anywhere else.

Enter the groundhog, once again. Two years ago, we already had the debate on net neutrality in Germany, “Drosselkom”. But since then, a lot has happened. A year ago, the European Parliament opted for stricter rules, intended to protect net neutrality. But our federal government tried to get the EU Council to decide otherwise. So now we have a kind of “trialogue” between Parliament, Council and Commission.

For the EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger, net neutrality supporters are little more than “Taliban”. Those who hold dear democratic values like freedom of expression and freedom of information, those who foster innovation and start-ups, are equated with terrorists. But we want to see true diversity of opinion, true freedom of expression realized, in a free and open European network.

It is our digital society. We have to get involved and make a difference for the digital world. The rules are being made now, whether it concerns data retention, net neutrality, freedom of expression, or copyright laws. And the most important debates are taking place at a European level. Don’t leave these topics to those who are only lobbying for their own interests. Let us fight together for a digital society and an open internet. In Germany, in the European Union, and everywhere else."